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Ostia(ŏs`tēə), ancient city of Italy, originally at the mouth of the Tiber but now inland as the Tiber delta has grown. It was founded (4th cent. B.C.) as a protection for Rome, then developed (from the 1st cent. B.C.) as a Roman port, rivaling Puteoli. Augustus, Claudius I, Trajan, and Hadrian expanded the city and harbor. From the 3d cent. A.D. the city began to decline. The ruins, of great archaeological interest, rival those of Pompeii in showing the layout of an ancient Italian city; significant excavations began only in the early 20th cent.
an ancient Roman colony, commercial harbor, and naval port, located at the mouth of the Tiber River.
Remains of the oldest fortifications date from the mid-fourth century B.C. The port was rebuilt at the beginning of the empire; intensive construction was conducted under Trajan. Surrounding the port were warehouses, trading establishments, and apartment blocks.
Excavations conducted since the end of the 18th century have unearthed temples (Capitolium and others), a theater, public baths, multistory dwellings, and other structures. Ostia was known for its saltworks. The port fell into decline after the capital was transferred from Rome to Constantinople (330 A.D.), but even during the Middle Ages it maintained its strategic naval importance.
REFERENCESScavi di Ostia, vols. 1–4. Rome, 1953–61.
Meiggs, R. Roman Ostia. Oxford, 1960.